Dentistry or food? Yes, believe it or not, Spanish chef, José Pizarro considered both career paths, but thankfully his love of food was just too strong and he had no choice but to leave his passion for dentistry at the kitchen door.
Originally from a beautiful village, Talaván in Cáceres, Extremadura, José has now lived in London for over 20 years, and is often described as the Godfather of Spanish cooking in the UK. José spent his early years here working at some of London’s most prestigious Spanish restaurants including Eyre Brothers, Brindisa and Gaudi. In 2011, José opened his first solo venture, José Tapas Bar on Bermondsey Street. José Tapas Bar is small and cosy venue, inspired by the bustling tapas bars of Barcelona. The daily menu depends on what looks good at the market on the day and it also serves an array of delicious Spanish sherries to compliment the dishes.
Later that year, José launched Pizarro also on Bermondsey Street. He named the restaurant after his grandfather, who had a bar called Pizarro in Talaván. The restaurant went on to earn numerous accolades including World Food Awards Restaurant of the Year, Best Mediterranean Establishment at The Food Awards London, The Rosette Awards for Culinary Excellence, Food and Travel Magazine’s Best Newcomer of the Year and Best Restaurant of the Year. Since then José has since gone on to launch two further openings in the Capital: José Pizarro at Broadgate Circle and pop-up restaurant Little José in Canary Wharf.
José’s latest venture has been opening The Swan Inn in Esher. It’s always been José’s dream of owning a country pub where guests can while away the afternoons and evenings in good company next to a roaring fire. The Swan Inn brings José’s family cooking values to Esher while maintaining a British Pub feel. The menu includes José tapas favourites to share, such as his unforgettable croquetas, tortilla and 100% 5J Jamón Ibérico. The a la carte menu features classic pub favourites that have been given a José twist alongside signature regional Spanish dishes using locally sourced produce.
José believes that tapas is for all, and that home cooks don’t have to be scared off by the idea of cooking lots of dishes – it’s all in the prep & keeping it simple. This mantra of simplicity along with Jose’s charm, enthusiasm and passion for Spanish food has led to Jose appearing on many of our favourite foodie TV programmes. A regular on BBC 1’s Saturday Kitchen, José has also appeared on Sunday Brunch, Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose, Rick Stein’s Christmas, Food Network’s The Big Eat and James Martin's Saturday Morning.
José’s talents don’t end there though – his first four books launched to great critical acclaim: Seasonal Spanish Food (Kyle Books, 2009), Spanish Flavours (Kyle Books, 2012), Basque (Hardie Grant, 2016), and Catalonia (Hardie Grant, 2017). His latest book, Andalusia (Hardie Grant, 2019) was published at the end of May 2019. A marvellous journey showing off the amazing food of this region, it’s a feast for the eyes as well as the senses!
A regular on the food festival scene, José was most recently found at the stoves at some of UK’s favourite events, including The Big Feastival, Taste of London, Meatopia, Aldeburgh & Padstow. His stage demonstrations are full of gorgeous anecdotes of growing up in Spain, how his Mum wouldn’t let him near the kitchen and his experiences of being a Spanish chef in London.
In 2014, José was voted one of ‘100 Españoles’ – a hugely prestigious award which showcases the top 100 Spaniards around the world, based on how they have brought their talents to the masses and how they have shown their Spanish pride and love of the country through their work. José loves nothing more than flying the flag for his homeland, so this award was particularly close to his heart as well as Extremeños de Hoy and awards of Gatronomy 2017 by El Periódico and Extremadura Turismo.
• On Trade Personality of the Year 2012 – Harper´s Magazine
• Newcomer of the Year Winner 2012 – Food and Travel Magazine Awards
• Restaurant of the Year Winner 2012 – Food and Travel Magazine Awards
• Restaurant of the Year 2012 – World Food Awards
• Extremeño de Hoy 2014
• Pizarro voted in at #34 in the Restaurant Magazine Awards 2015
• Number 39 of Harper´s Magazine´s list of Top 100 Most Influential People in UK 2017
• Basque won Food & Travel Magazine’s Reader Awards 2017
• Taste of London 2017 Best in Taste runner-up
• On- Trade Personality of the Year 2015 – Rioja
• Galardón Turístico Gruta de Aracena 2016
• Best Mediterranean establishment 2016 – The Food Awards London
• Galardón de San Lorenzo 2017
• Patatera de Honor 2017
• Awards of Tourism by El Periodico 2017